Red Sonja, the She-Devil with a Sword, has taken on foes of every shape and size in Hyperborea. But what happens when she finds herself in modern day New York City?
Previously in Red Sonja: Last time we saw the She Devil With a Sword she was in the middle of a civil war in Hyrkania. Sonja was able to reclaim the Falcon Throne, and then the series ended. Apparently, when this series begins, she is fighting Kulan Gath, but is somehow transported to modern day New York City.
NEVER BRING A SWORD TO A GUN FIGHT
Here is the thing – I really love pulp characters. Doc Savage, Conan, The Shadow, and those that sprung from those sources like our title character, Red Sonja. I love looking at those worlds set in a time period that the characters were able to be greater than their surroundings. Doc Savage works best in the 1930s and ’40s. Conan and Red Sonja are best set in the Hyborian Age. But, for some reason, there are those that think tales of characters set in the past are not the thing readers really want. Instead, these characters are transported to modern times to update them and make them fresh again.
I’m not a fan.
You can imagine my disappointment when Red Sonja suddenly finds herself in New York City, in the middle of a snow storm, and surrounded by a swarm of police officers who don’t understand her language, and are more than willing to shoot first and ask questions later.
Really? Didn’t they learn their lesson from Doc Savage and The Shadow? Sure it brings attention and publicity to the story initially, but ultimately, new readers, and the die-hard fan base turns.
Fortunately, Max, a rookie officer, understands and speaks the ancient tongue, and is able to talk her down before she kills anyone. Max knows how to speak Sonja’s language because his mother taught him a couple of languages before she died. Then, because she’s wearing her chain mail bikini in the middle of a storm, and screaming in a language no one (except Max) can understand, she’s taken to a local mental hospital for evaluation. It’s only there that we learn that Kulan Gath is still alive and manipulating things behind the scenes. He also appears to be the head of a major corporation.
It’s an odd situation for this comic and pulp fan and reviewer to be in. On the one hand, I love time travel stories, and this definitely qualifies as time travel – so, YAY! On the other hand, if Sonja is still stuck in the present when this adventure ends, the story and the character wind up in the same situation that caused Doc Savage, The Shadow, and others to ultimate fail as ongoing series and adventures.
That being said, Amy Chu does know how to write conflict. The sequence of Sonja being taken down by the police, and the subsequent mental hospital scene, work quite well. The few panels where readers get to know Max, instantly show he’s one of the good guys, and will serve a bigger role in this story as it progresses. Overall, this is a fine issue, there is enough conflict, mystery, and a final panel hook that has me interested and engaged enough to want to know what happens next.
ART THAT WILL PUNCH YOU IN THE FACE
The character work in this issue is fantastic! It isn’t cartoony comic book art, nor does Carlos Gomez attempt to create photo-realistic characters. Instead, we get characters that are a mix of the two extremes. Beefy orderlies look like mountains, while frumpy security guards look frumpier than any guard sitting in a security shack should look. Red Sonja is all curves and muscles, while Max looks like a skinny rookie. From what I can see, Gomez does not use a limited number of stock figures; every character has a unique look and style. Clothing hangs like it should on the various body types, and at no point does it fee like the clothing is simply painted on the character.
The action is also well executed. For me, really great action sequences should feel fluid. When Sonja punches a thug, it should feel like we are in the middle of an action, and not at the beginning or end of that action. Gomez delivers perfectly in every single panel.
BOTTOM LINE: MY HANGUPS ARE NOT NECESSARILY YOURS
After the initial shock of seeing Red Sonja swinging her giant sword at cops, and head-butting evil doctors in the face in modern day wears off, the story isn’t really that different than a Red Sonja story set in her own time-period. Our hero is out of her element (strange land, strange customs, strange world), and that makes Red Sonja Vol. 4 #1 worth checking out. The odds are stacked against our hero, and we are cheering for her to come out on top in the end. The analogy that a ruling despot of ancient times is no different than the head of a mega corporation today is not lost on me.
Bottom line – this isn’t as terrible an issue as I make it out to be. My hang-ups and issue with the modernization of characters, may not be a problem for you. If Sonja is still in modern times when this series ends, then we can talk about the bigger problems. For now, I’m rooting that Sonja beats the crap out of a corporate CEO.